Is MacBook Air Good for Programming?

Yes, MacBook Air is powerful enough to help programmers with their coding needs. However, you must choose the latest M1-chip models. While the older MacBook Air with Intel i5 processor was also fine for basic development, the performance was limiting in many ways.  

I was a software developer working on my MacBook Air M1 for a year now. To be honest, switching from my old laptop to this one has been a great decision so far. 

In this article, I’ll highlight the reasons why MacBook Air is good for programming and app development while also explaining the limitations you might come across. 

Keep reading to make an informed decision! 

Your Programming Needs vs What MacBook Air Can Offer

If you are a developer who constantly works with multiple IDEs and applications simultaneously, it’s necessary to do your due diligence before investing in a quality laptop. 

Sadly, the majority of the MacBook Air designed before 2020 were unable to satisfy pro programming needs. 

While the M1 MacBook Air does, the question still remains, to what an extent? 

So, let’s explore the various programming needs and check how much the latest MacBook Air can help cover those requirements.

RAM – What MacBook Air’s RAM Specs Would be Best for Programming?

It is difficult to standardize the RAM requirement for programming. Because the RAM needed depends on the work you do. 

For instance, programmers working on the cloud might not need to worry about the machine’s RAM size. Typically, 8GB would do the job. 

However, if you code gaming programs or write programs for applications with graphics, bigger RAM is always better.

Tip: If you want to achieve standard performance during heavy programming with 8GB RAM, try deleting unused applications, restrict unnecessary apps taking huge resources and run macOS’s internal service task. Do not forget to manage startup applications

Processor – How Strong MacBook Air is for Programming?

Missing on improving the processor’s performance with Apple’s new release had been a huge disappointment for users. 

Thankfully, the new M1 chip has everything that a programmer would need to work without any hassle. A great improvement over its past releases that featured either an Intel Core i3 or the i5 processor. 

While companies recommend having at least the i5 processor to carry out programming tasks, it still isn’t enough for bigger projects. That’s why I would recommend going for MacBook Air with an M1 Apple chip.

This processor can run more cores at an even higher GHz. That means more computational power. 

Tip: With M1 Chip, now the latest MacBook Air and Pro sit side by side in processors’ performance.

Storage – Does This Even Matter?

Well, not as much as RAM and processor. Coding usually does not take plenty of storage space. And, a 256 GB SSD is a good starting point. 

And if you go for the 512 GB storage with MacBook Air M1, I am pretty sure you won’t need an external drive ever. 

That said, you always have the option to cover the extra storage needs by using an external drive.

Tip: For saving some extra bucks, you can choose to buy 256 GB MacBook Air. It will be enough for all your programming projects. For the future, the option for adding an external drive is always open too.  

Design – Are There Any Improvements?

Some may differ from my views, but I believe that a laptop’s design matters a lot for developers. Spending hours on their machines, programmers usually prefer bigger screen sizes, comfortable keyboards, and hubs to connect different devices together. 

Because you often need to work with multiple browser tabs, code editors, emulators, compilers all at once, this is definitely a challenge for your eyes.

And, 13 inches might not offer the same comfort a bigger screen can. Fortunately, adding True Tone to the latest MacBook Air models does compensate for that a little. The machine adjusts the screen brightness as per the surrounding lighting automatically. 

Another improvement you can already find in the latest MacBook Air series is the keyboard design. Unlike the older butterfly keys that were light and flimsy, the new backlit Magic keyboard is smoother and more functional. 

All these perks make MacBook Air faster for typing as well as a highly reliable partner in coding.

However, in terms of ports available, the new MacBook Air is limited to using just two Thunderbolt/USB-4 ports. That means if you want to connect more than two devices, you need to look for USB hub options to expand the port number further. 

Tip: Overall, the MacBook Air M1 design is fine. But to make the most of your spending, you must weigh your priorities in terms of screen size and port availability.

MacBook Air M1 for Programming: Pros and Cons

The latest MacBook Air M1 packs various benefits for coders. However, it is also worth noting that it is not perfect. 

I have created this list to show you the pros and cons. So, if you are planning to purchase this laptop, make sure to set the expectations right. 

Pros

  • Supports almost every compiler environment.
  • Compatible with open-source packages for tools such as MacPorts, Homebrew and more, the machine allows you to install various different applications. 
  • Supports XCode for iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and tvOS programming with different languages.
  • Supports a huge array of development tools and apps such as Eclipse, PyCharm, and more. 
  • With the new addition of ARM-based Android emulators, it is now possible to work with iOS as well as Android emulators.
  • Very portable.

Cons

  • The 13-inch display can be too small and thus not friendly for eyes.
  • Users can connect just one additional monitor.
  • RAM could become limited for heavy use. Such as when using iOS and Android emulators along with multiple applications simultaneously.

Other Questions You Might Have

Below is a list of questions related to the topic, I’ll answer them briefly.

What MacBook is Best for Programming?

While MacBook Pro is better among all the Apple products currently available, MacBook Air M1 gives close competition to the former by bringing down the budget considerably.

Can Python Run on MacBook Air?

Yes, MacBook Air is great for a number of programming languages including Python.

What is Better for Programming MacBook Air or Pro?

Depending on your work, you can decide which one to choose. While MacBook Air is best for basic and medium level coders, MacBook Pro is best for pro programmers. In short, MacBook Pro can do the heavy lifting for heavy applications better than the Air series. 

Is MacBook Air M1 Good for Engineering Students?

Definitely yes. While being able to handle most of the popular development tools and apps, MacBook Air M1 can do even more apart from fulfilling the basic programming needs of engineering students.  

Conclusion

If you are an Apple fan, the new MacBook Air with M1 chip is a great choice for your programming needs. It has everything that you would require for completing your projects smoothly. 

No matter if you are a beginner or a pro, the laptop gives you enough room to widen your creativity and carry heavy programming (to a certain limit though) when needed. And the older MacBook Air models with Intel chips simply don’t cut it.

About Lorena
Lorena holds a 13-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pro with Apple M1 Chip. Her role involves editorial management from writing to editing and ensuring that the articles are informative, useful, and relevant to readers who are new to Mac.

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